Marine Protection Atlas collects and shares the best available information on marine protected areas (MPAs) to track global progress and to promote effective networks of protected areas across the ocean. Our goal is to clarify and visualize the level of protection and implementation of the world's MPAs, highlighting the importance of fully and highly protected areas that have the components necessary to achieve positive conservation outcomes. Marine Protection Atlas serves as a bridge between designating authorities and the marine conservation and science community to ensure that marine protected areas are fully implemented, actively managed and effective in achieving desired conservation benefits.
We compile the latest available global data from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and other data providers into a standardized database. We also map the boundaries of newly defined protected areas before they are available in the WDPA.
We enrich the database with additional information including the location of no-take reserves and other management zones within marine protected areas.
Read more about our methods.
We work closely with partners to evaluate the protection level of marine protected areas according to a scientifically rigorous approach.
Read more about the evaluation process.
National waters, those areas within the limits of declared Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in which countries have jurisdiction and the ability to create marine protected areas, account for 39% of global ocean area and include many hotspots of human activity and industry. Recognizing existing and potential future threats to the ocean and the importance of safeguarding biodiversity, many nations have agreed to international commitments to create marine protected areas. Additionally, many countries have established their own national targets for marine protected areas, ranging in coverage from 10% to 30% of their ocean estate.
In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ratified by 196 states (notably excluding the USA), adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which includes Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Aichi Target 11 called for 10% of coastal and marine areas to be conserved by 2020 through effectively managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes. While we have reached only 6.3% globally, leading scientific experts assert that we need a more rigorous approach to conservation, including a goal of 30% protection by 2030. After extensive advocacy and campaigning, the UN CBD released a draft proposal for a post-2020 framework, which includes a target to protect at least 30% of the planet - land and sea - by 2030, which is anticipated to be adopted by governments at the 15th Conference of the Parties in October 2020 in Kunming, China.
The 25 largest MPA zones account for more than 66% of the total marine protected area in the world.
In contrast, most MPAs are very small; roughly 62% of them are smaller than 10 km2.
Both small and large MPAs can export adult or larvae marine species and support sustainable fisheries and other extractive human activities (by supplementing populations in surrounding areas), but MPAs are less effective for conserving biodiversity if the organisms they export suffer significant fishing mortality. MPAs that can reduce mortality and protect critical life history phases where they occur are much more effective than those that do not.
Research suggests large MPAs are much more cost-effective to implement and manage compared to smaller MPAs (McCrea-Stroub et al 2010), and in general larger areas provide greater protection from activities that occur outside the MPA. However, it is important to note that small and well managed MPAs can still achieve important conservation benefits.